Lady Indians snap losing streak, gear up for playoffs
After a tough late-season schedule and hitting slump led to three consecutive losses, against Sussex Central, Laurel and Milford, the Indian River High School softball team got back on track just in time this week, to lock in a playoff spot with wins at Appoquinimink and Wilmington Charter last week.
Before capping the regular season with back-to-back wins, however, the girls’ hitting slump had continued, when they traveled to Laurel on Wednesday, May 14, to face defending state champions Laurel and pitching phenomenon Reagan Green.
Green — who, as a junior, has already committed to play at a Division I college — held the Lady Indians to no hits on the day, only allowing one runner on base after hitting her with a pitch.
Indian River senior pitcher Rachel Hudson pitched well, despite the lack of offensive production, keeping Laurel off the board until a line drive down the leftfield line drove in the deciding run, to end the game at 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“There’s definitely a competition between me and Reagan, because we’ve always been rivals since we were little,” Hudson explained after the pitching battle.
“Going from the speed we saw at Central to the speed we saw at Laurel didn’t help us at all,” head coach Erika Brittingham added. “We just didn’t hit our pitch. We went for her pitches and her pitch — she’s a very good pitcher, best pitcher that we’ve seen.”
The girls’ hitting woes continued the next day, when they traveled to Milford and suffered a 5-3 loss. The Lady Bucs batters benefitted from strong winds in that matchup, as two solo homeruns from their two main power hitters ended up being the difference, to make for the Lady Indians’ third consecutive loss.
Despite the game’s final outcome, Brittingham commended the defensive performance by sophomore center-fielder Callie McDowell, who made several key defensive plays in the outfield.
“Callie played some ball today,” Brittingham noted. “She was doing a nice job out in the outfield — especially with the way the wind was blowing.”
After that game, Brittingham said she was going to try to get her squad to relax and get back to having fun and playing their game — which is exactly what they did in their 6-2 win at Appoquinimink on Saturday, May 17.
After trailing 1-0 after the first inning, the Lady Indians would go on to even the score in the fourth, before senior shortstop Karlie Smith connected with a three-run shot over the fence, to put her team up 4-1. The homerun was Smith’s third on the season — one of which came on an inside-the-park score earlier this season.
The girls hit the road again on Monday, May 19, to face Wilmington Charter School, notching a 2-1 victory, to finish the season 12-6 and better their potential playoff seeding.
Hudson only gave up one hit in that contest, and offensively would go on to tally a double — eventually being hit in by sophomore leftfielder Ky Neal on a two-run homer that proved to be the difference in the game.
“I think after winning two big games we’re all kind of pumped up and ready for the playoffs,” said Hudson after the victories. “I think the girls are really motivated, especially just to win it for [the seniors].”
While the girls wait to see who they’ll face in the first round of the DIAA playoffs next Saturday, they won’t have to wait for post-season accolades. Seniors Hudson, Smith and Ana Impastato were all named First-Team All-Conference, while freshman first baseman Madi Megee was named to the Honorable Mention list. And, in her first year as head coach, Brittingham won Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year.
To see who the Lady Indians will face on Saturday and to get updates on the game, follow @CPointSports on Twitter.